Blog on Effective Environmental Communication
Here are a few points that stood out to me from the discussions:
I highly recommend this annual event to other students and professionals who want to learn about the exciting clean energy transition happening in North Carolina and beyond!
I’ll admit it - I’m an astrology girl. I’m not saying I think zodiac signs are 100% real, but I’m also not saying they’re entirely fake (based on personal experience, not science).
If you know me, you probably know I find personality types fascinating. I’ve written about connections between the environment and Enneagram types. While recognizing that we are unlikely to perfectly fit a personality type description, categorizing ourselves can help us identify our unique characteristics.
This week, I wanted to write about messages that could resonate with people of different zodiac signs. Every sign has strengths that they can use to contribute to the environmental movement.
Aquarius (January 20 to February 18): An Aquairus is creative, artistic, and funny. They also have a rebellious streak! A message that would resonate with this sign is that by taking climate action, they are rebelling against the terrible impacts of climate change that feel almost inevitable. A meme or beautiful poster would be a great way to spread this message to the visual-oriented Aquarius.
Pisces (February 19 to March 20): A Pisces is deeply empathetic, compassionate, and generous. To encourage them to protect the environment, use messages that highlight the direct unjust impacts of climate change and give clear information about how these people can direct their time and energy to helping (like joining an environmental advocacy organization).
Aries (March 21 to April 19): An Aries is a natural leader, adventurous and independent. Use messages that encourage them to stand up for our environment and use their voice. You could encourage them to write letters to political leaders and encourage their network to advocate for climate action, too.
Taurus (April 20 to May 20): A Taurus knows what they care about and works hard to protect it. They are committed to causes, determined to help the people and places they love. To encourage them to take climate action, show how climate change can impact their community or anything else they care about (say, their favorite food or hobby), and they may be likely to go to work to slow climate change to protect those things.
Gemini (May 21 to June 20): A Gemini is adaptable and gregarious, fitting in with almost any group of people. They would be great advocates for helping others become more open-minded about taking climate action. Tell your Gemini friend about this strength, and they will probably be excited for an opportunity to make new friends!
Cancer (June 21 to July 22): A Cancer has just so much love to share. They are sensitive, nurturing, and intuitive. They want to know how to help people, so share with them ways to help people in the climate movement. For instance, they could remind other climate advocates to take care of themselves as well as donate to people experiencing climate disasters. They could have careers like nursing, in which they might help people experience health issues from a dirty environment, or teaching, in which they could instill a love for the earth in others.
Leo (July 23 to August 22): Determined, passionate, and organized, a Leo loves to be in control. They can act as a mastermind for strategy when determining how to meet different environmental goals, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions or communicating and sustainable habits. Encourage your Leo friend to get involved with planning in the environmental movement.
Virgo (August 23 to September 22): A Virgo is incredibly hardworking, responsible, and thoughtful. They have the patience to take the time to take small steps that can help us reach big environmental goals. Show someone who is a Virgo that their individual actions matter, such as how composting food waste or reducing air travel can have significant results at a large scale. Then they will take on the responsibility of taking those steps to ensure a positive individual contribution to the environmental movement (but note the importance of systemic change, too!).
Libra (September 23 to October 22): The sophisticated and sociable Libra cares strongly about balance and justice. Highlight inequities like environmental racism to encourage a Libra to care about environmental action. Some examples include Cancer Alley in Louisiana and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Point them toward environmental organizations that are working toward a just, sustainable future.
Scorpio (October 23 to November 21): A Scorpio is strong, brave, and protective. They can be fierce advocates for climate action and justice, unafraid to call it what it is. They can directly call out politicians and companies creating environmental problems, whether on social media or at protests. Tell a Scorpio about this strength and encourage them to use their skills to protect their planet.
Sagittarius (November 22 to December 21): A Sagittarius is optimistic, ambitious, and honest. Despite all the negative media about climate change, they love to see messages of hope that show climate action can be worth it, that a healthy environment and just future are possible. As a Sagittarius myself, I recognize the importance of hope over doom and gloom, while not hiding the truth that action is urgent.
Capricorn (December 22 to January 19): A Capricorn is driven, confident, and realistic. Compared to communication with a Sagittarius, a conversation with a Capricorn may be more direct about serious climate threats and the need for people to take action. A Capricorn may feel compelled to be the person who faces the odds and works toward change anyway. After all, mitigating some effects of climate change is better than no action at all.
What’s your zodiac sign? What sort of messages resonate with you when it comes to protecting the environment?
iPhone users, have you noticed a message about your phone strategically charging at certain times of the day to make use of clean energy?
In a recent software update (iOS 16.1), Apple has made phones charge at times when solar and wind generation is higher to make use of these cleaner energy sources that emit less carbon.
Many of us are pretty reliant on our smartphones, so this new feature is an important step toward powering them with cleaner electricity. It is especially helpful that the feature is automatic, as many people may not take the initiative to turn it on themselves but do not mind keeping the setting on. Plus, having this automatic setting means we do not have to think about charging our phones at times with peak renewable energy generation in our area (let alone figure out what those times are ourselves). The phone learns our daily charging routine to determine when we need to charge and the times to charge most cleanly.
A downside is that you may need to charge your phone at a time different from your usual schedule. I typically charge my phone at night and do not need to charge it again until the next night. Recently, though, I had to charge my phone in the evening (a time of high energy demand and low solar energy availability) so I would have enough battery for celebrating a friend’s birthday. After being plugged into an outlet for a while, I noticed my phone was still not charging and realized I needed to turn off the clean energy charging setting. Once I did, it started charging. People may have all sorts of special events or circumstances, like traveling or attending a concert, that require them to change their charging schedule. Fortunately, you can turn off the feature if needed.
What are your thoughts on this feature?
Coal ash is waste from coal-burning power plants that contains toxic chemicals like arsenic, lead, mercury, and chromium. These chemicals can lead to serious health effects like cancer, heart disease, strokes, and childhood brain cancer (Hitt). It is stored in landfills or ponds often near water resources. 95% of coal ash ponds in the United States are unlined and contribute to groundwater contamination. On February 2, 2014, Duke Energy officials saw coal ash leaking into the Dan River in Eden, North Carolina, near the Virginia border. For my course on water resources and human rights, I studied the connection of this incident with human rights. See my attached project to learn more!
The coal ash spill in the Dan River is not an isolated incident but an event that highlights the danger of coal ash. It is a public health issue that exemplifies human rights violations that have occurred at multiple sites. It is important that utilities manage coal ash responsibly, and lawmakers at the federal and state levels should support policy that mitigates and prevents coal ash and its associated problems. Individuals can contact their legislators and express their support for safe management of coal ash as well as clean energy to reduce coal ash. The Dan River spill did prompt policy change, but some is being rolled back, and it is important for the public to understand this case as an example of a human rights issue.
Do you like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? I love their ice cream, and I also love that they have positioned themselves as advocates for climate action and social justice. This week, I want to tell you about one of their campaigns that I studied in a public relations case studies course.
Ben & Jerry’s had the opportunity to use its power as a well-known company to advocate for global climate action (like a commitment to 100% renewable energy) and build its image as an environmentally responsible company. Its 2015 climate change campaign, “If it’s melted, it’s ruined!” (which used the above video) showed that the company values the environment, but it could have been more successful if the company provided a clear explanation of its connection to climate advocacy.
Overall, Ben & Jerry’s grasped the opportunity well by showing a genuine commitment to climate action. The company showed its commitment by combining advocacy with specific ways it was leading change. For instance, Ben & Jerry’s encouraged people to join it in a climate march and has implemented practices that directly support climate action. The company has put its own tax on greenhouse gas emissions and uses those funds for social initiatives. It continued to build on a foundation of commitment to environmental advocacy, suggesting that it intended to support the planet and did not simply join a trend of environmental advocacy for attention.
The main problem is that Ben & Jerry’s did not show a clear connection between its climate advocacy and its business. Ben & Jerry’s video about climate action received comments accusing it of misleading the public about its commitment to the environment, especially since producing ice cream contributes to climate change. I recommend that Ben & Jerry’s provides a clear explanation as to why it is advocating for climate action. It could reference its history of environmental advocacy. The company could also point out that climate change threatens its supply chain. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s later said that they might not be able to produce some flavors of ice cream since climate change threatens some ingredients, like coffee. Explaining these connections could help people understand the campaign’s relevance. Then, Ben & Jerry’s could show that companies and people who are partly responsible for climate change can be part of the solution.
Ultimately, the campaign had positive and negative results. A positive result was that the campaign contributed to the 3.5 million signatures on a petition for a global commitment to clean energy leading up to the 2015 United Nations Climate Summit. At this conference, many world leaders did sign the Paris Agreement to reduce global warming. Another positive result is that Ben & Jerry’s distinguished itself by being the only major ice cream brand advocating for climate action. While direct financial results are unavailable since the company is part of Unilever, current CEO Matthew McCarthy shared that the company has experienced strong growth while engaging in advocacy and that many people support its work. However, not all consumers are engaged or aware of the advocacy. A negative result of the campaign is that some people called out the company for advocating for climate action even though producing its ice cream emits greenhouse gases that cause climate change. In 2016, possibly as a result of such responses, Ben & Jerry’s released non-dairy products that have a smaller impact on climate change.
Learning about companies’ climate campaigns, including their success and areas for improvement, can be helpful and inspiring for other companies looking to enter the climate advocacy space!
Food waste is a problem due to its scale and environmental impacts. According to the USDA, about 30-40% of food is wasted (USDA 2020). The largest source of food waste in the United States is fruits and vegetables. Food waste has been a significant source of household waste since pre-industrial times, but interest in food waste reduction increased in the 2010s as food waste and its impact on climate change continued to grow as a problem.
This week’s blog looks a little different since it comes in infographic form! I created an infographic on this topic for my public policy course. Food waste is one area where individuals have some control over their environmental impact, so I'm excited for you to learn about the issue and increase your self-efficacy to deal with it appropriately.
As we continue to think about different mediums for environmental communication (see last week’s blog on art and music), this infographic exemplifies a visual way to communicate about environmental issues.
“Water bug” was my nickname when I was little. I love spending time in or by the water, whether by an ocean, sound, lake, or pool. In high school, I developed a love for kayaking when some relatives let me use their kayaks by the Bogue Sound. I find that spending time on the water with new scenery makes me feel rejuvenated and motivated to continue caring for the environment to conserve and improve our natural surroundings.
During the end of my senior year, I found out that UNC has a relatively new sailing club. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. Moving from undergrad to grad school this year gave me a chance to switch up some of my extracurricular activities (since some were just for undergrads) and try something different. I was so excited to explore a new way to spend time on the water!
First, I attended a couple clinics that the experienced members of the sailing club taught to the students looking to try a new hobby. It was interesting to learn the parts of the sailboat, some basic knots, how to adjust the sails, and how to steer the boat.
After attending clinics, I have been able to attend “Friday Fun Sails” to practice sailing at Jordan Lake. Mostly, I have been a crew member adjusting the sails, and it has also been exciting to try out steering as a skipper a couple times.
I recently went sailing on a particularly windy afternoon and got the closest I’d been to capsizing. The other two sailors and I were getting ready to turn around when the wind suddenly strengthened. The boat tilted on its side as we desperately tried to adjust the sails and shift our weight. Fortunately, we were able to get steady. Once we were safe, I realized it had been fun to have an adrenaline rush.
While some other members of the club enjoy capsizing and have even intentionally capsized, I’m certainly glad my boat did not capsize this time since just dipping my hand in the water was chilly.
Following our near-capsize, we sailed towards shore while watching the gorgeous lavender sunset.
Attempting to convince others to take action against climate change can sometimes feel like we’re digging into solid rock earth, dry from the increasing droughts from climate change. Words can be powerful, but they can also be tiresome. Communication isn’t just about written words. It’s possible—and effective—to use innovative communication methods like art and music to encourage environmental awareness. They can help more people understand the urgency of climate action.
Mary Mattingly is an artist whose work combines nature and space to draw audiences. She has created structures reusing materials that raise awareness of environmental issues, which she calls “icons to my own consumption.” Mattingly came to UNC–Chapel Hill to discuss her work with climate.
One of her projects was the Waterpod, a boat that grows food. Stewards could care for it themselves when they visited the boat during its five months in New York City. Mattingly built the Waterpod entirely from the waste chain in the city. The wood came from a stage used by the parks department. The soil was city compost. Further, the water used was pumped off rooftops and into tanks. The boat had a direct connection to its environment because the wake from other boats affected the ecosystem. Mattingly said it gave people the ability to see a microscopic ecosystem from a macroscopic view.
More and more young artists are sharing the sentiment of climate change being a threat that looms over our generation. Lil Nas X, singer of “Old Time Road” (the longest song to be #1 on Billboard) said in a tweet that part of the song referred to climate change. Singers Billie Eilish and Lana Del Ray have climate as a “backdrop” to their music through imagery of a burning planet. Notably, as we continue to think about reaching audiences, this music may appeal most to young people already concerned about climate change. Nevertheless, it helps make climate change a more salient issue that people can think about rather than fear.
These innovative and unique forms of communication are indeed impactful. “‘There’s some evidence, according to Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, that art, and culture more broadly, can shift people into action on climate change. That more artists are addressing it, ‘is a mirror to the times,’ he said. It’s a reflection of our cultural understanding of climate change and also influences our perception of it,” wrote Kendra Pierre-Louis and John Schwartz in the Climate Fwd: newsletter in The New York Times.
Want to learn more about environmental communications strategies? Make sure to check out Planet Now, the book!
I recently had a minor identity crisis. After years of identifying as a Type One (the Reformer) on the Enneagram test, I realized I may now be a Type Five (the Investigator)!
The Enneagram system categorizes people into nine personality types based on their worldviews and emotions.
I was assigned to take the test for The Branding of Me class (for which I’m writing this blog) at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. While I’ve been interested in personality type tests like the Enneagram for years, even teaching a Splash UNC course about them to high schoolers, I decided to take it again for fun. I figured I would get Type One like I always had. This time, though, Type Five appeared as my top Enneagram type. At first, I blamed my “incorrect” answer on being tired and taking the test right before going to bed. Upon closer look at the description, I realized Type Five is actually a good fit.
Type Five describes people who are curious, independent problem-solvers. They spend a lot of time (sometimes too much time) deep in thought. What really stood out to me about the Enneagram Institute’s description of Type Five is that their key motivations are “to possess knowledge, to understand the environment, [and] to have everything figured out as a way of defending the self from threats from the environment.” While this description was likely referring to a person’s surroundings (school, work, etc.), it aligned exactly with what I’ve been doing in school the past five years. I’ve been studying environmental issues, especially climate change, to figure out how to mitigate this problem and its devastating effects. I’ve found strategic communication as a solution and have continued to study it so I can advocate for slowing climate change and its threats.
Until now, I’ve confidently identified with Type One as someone who cares a lot about doing what is right and creating justice in the world. We are perfectionists, sometimes to a fault. The “sense of mission” that is common for this type definitely relates to my goal to help solve climate change and reduce environmental injustices. I still think Type One can be a fit for me - most people find that they fit with multiple Enneagram types!
Each type takes on the characteristics of another type when stressed or growing. An interesting connection is that the Type One acts like a Type Seven when experiencing growth. The Type Five acts like a Type Seven when experiencing stress. I thought that reviewing the Type Seven personality type and seeing whether it better matches a growing or stressed version of myself might help me compare my two types. Reading the description of that type - someone who is spontaneous, extroverted, and optimistic - seemed much more like a growing than stressed version of myself, making me feel more like a Type One.
Ultimately, I plan to keep learning about both Type One and Type Five and seeing what personal insight they can give me, whether about my career or life in general. Enneagrams are valuable because they help us reflect on ourselves, our strengths, and areas for growth. They can also influence how we feel about climate change and the types of messages that resonate with us. I wrote more about connecting Enneagram types to environmental messaging in a previous blog post.
If you read my book Planet Now, you may remember the chapters featuring Brooke and her writing projects. She wrote for Yale Climate Connections and wrote and produced her own podcast, the Guilty Plastics Podcast.
Now that she is with the NPS, Brooke is excited to be producing another podcast. This one is for Park Science Magazine about how Cape Hatteras National Seashore is addressing sea level rise impacts at their park. She interviewed Dave Hallac, superintendent of the park, and found it interesting to learn about the park’s research to identify areas that are susceptible to erosion, informing where to avoid building structures.
In her role, Brooke has mainly been focused on projects about sea level rise and restoration. A big project has been putting together a spatial database of coastal restoration projects across parks. She has also been developing case study briefs that they plug into the database so that employees across parks can view project information and share resources.
Plus, Brooke has gotten to occasionally visit field sites. She attended a volunteer work day in Rocky Mountain National Park and collected native seeds to be planted in burned areas that lost vegetation.
Brooke loves getting to work in a space where she helps protect the environment and reduce the risks of climate impacts because she has been worried about climate change since she was a kid. She explained that in elementary school it was “a shock to the system to learn about something that could rock your world.” In high school she decided to take action to help slow climate change. She began a sustainability club to encourage composting and start a native plant garden. Going into college, she was interested in sustainability but wasn’t sure what a career in that space would look like. After about a year, she found her interest in environmental communication. Brooke graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a major in environmental science and minors in geography as well as media and journalism.
Brooke highly recommends the Scientists in Parks internship program through which she found her NPS role. It connects recent graduates who want experience in the NPS and offers a wide variety of positions, both in the field and office.
As we face serious climate change impacts, it is important for everyone to contribute to the movement to slow the problem in the ways they are able. Like Brooke said, everyone has skills that can apply to solving climate change. Read an earlier blog post on climate-related careers to learn more about the ways people can help and the types of skills you can apply to solving climate change!
Welcome to my blog! It is a combination of posts from my strategic writing (spring 2022) and personal branding (spring 2023) courses at UNC. I hope you will enjoy reading the posts and learning about the environment and communication.